Retired Fort Drum soldiers share their Afghanistan war experience
WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - We continue our conversation with 3 retired 10th Mountain Division soldiers who served in Afghanistan. The veterans speak about their time with the 10th, their training for Afghanistan, and the reality that not everyone will come home.
“The 10th Mountain Division is a superstar. When it comes to the mountains of Afghanistan, who else would you want to call,” said Jim Redmore, the retired command sergeant major of the 3rd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division.
Fighting the war in the mountains of Afghanistan, you found the 10th Mountain Division often.
“Tough terrain. We traveled all over and, if you looked at the terrain, everything from high mountain passes - whether there was snow and we couldn’t travel anymore - to the deep gorges that we we would travel in and we couldn’t even elevate your machine gun to cover yourself,” said Master Sergeant James Shinholt (Ret.), who served in the 2nd Brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, deployments from Fort Drum started just weeks later. While many of us stood still in shock, Fort Drum soldiers were off to war.
“You can’t prepare for everything. However, our training did prepare us for Afghanistan,” said Sergeant First Class Roy Mitchell (Ret.), who served with the 1st Brigade’s 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry
Redmore led the 3rd Brigade Combat Team in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2007.
“Unfortunately, we lost several (soldiers),” he said.
Among them was Sergeant First Class Jared Monti. Awarded the Medal of Honor, he tried 3 times to save a wounded soldier when his unit came under attack in the northeastern mountains of Afghanistan. On the third try, Monti was killed.
“It doesn’t surprise me that he did what he did to try and save one of his teammates, and lost his life doing that. Great American,” said Redmore.
In November 2003, Mitchell lost his left leg, part of his jaw and suffered other life-changing injuries when his Humvee hit a landmine.
“I was a soup sandwich. I was a mess,” he said.
After 50, Mitchell stopped counting the number of surgeries he had at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Still, he returned to being a soldier with the 10th Mountain Division. He retired in 2016.
“I spent more years as an amputee than an able-bodied soldier, and the 10th leadership helped make that happen,” he said.
While each of these veterans - friends and neighbors to us in the north country - didn’t serve together, they do share a feeling of deep pride serving with the division.
“I can say with a shadow of a doubt the most profound, exciting and proudest time of my life is serving as a Spartan Warrior of the 3rd Brigade,” said Redmore.
“I hold them nearest and dearest to my heart - 2-14th infantry,” said Shinholt.
“To see the pride the 10th Mountain Division soldiers carry now - the ones that have served in the past - and everything the division has accomplished, it’s really a great success story,” said Mitchell.
And as the war ends in Afghanistan, it’s another chapter in the storied history of the 10th Mountain Division.
“They are a division to call with warriors who will always meet the challenge,” said Redmore.
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